Former officers testify about murder victim's acts of violence, psychotic episode in Rhea County murder case

Former officers testify about murder victim's acts of violence, psychotic episode in Rhea County murder case

June 19th, 2019 by Ben Benton in Local - Breaking News

Patricia Kaye Wilkey, seated, listens to her lawyer, Chattanooga-attorney Marty Lasley, before court proceedings begin on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Wilkey, 52, is on trial for first-degree murder in the 2017 slaying of her husband, 51-year-old Thomas Richard "Skipper" Wilkey Jr.

Photo by Ben Benton /Times Free Press.

Updated at 5:02 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, with more information.

DAYTON, Tenn. — After the state's last witness took the stand Wednesday for defense cross examination to start the day in the Rhea County, Tennessee, first-degree murder case against Patricia Kaye Wilkey, her attorney began calling witnesses for her side, among them two former deputies.

Tuesday's testimony ended with state direct examination of Rhea County Detective Mike Bice after playing a recorded interview of Patricia Wilkey's statement for the jury, who read a transcript to follow along. The statement had been the subject of several bench conferences Monday and Tuesday morning.

Wilkey, 52, is being tried on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband, 51-year-old Thomas Richard "Skipper" Wilkey Jr., at the couples' home on Walkertown Road on Dayton Mountain. Patricia Wilkey was charged the same day Skipper Wilkey was found dead. She admitted to the shooting, authorities said after the arrest.

In cross examination Wednesday morning, Marty Lasley, Patricia Wilkey's attorney, hammered Bice about his interviewing technique and whether he was so successful in getting her to confess because he was aware of problems between the Wilkeys.

Bice testified he was aware of some issues but had little personal knowledge of anything. He said he encountered Patricia Wilkey a year after the indictment was issued in her husband's slaying. She was sitting in a car on the side of the road on Dayton Mountain crying, and she told Bice her life was over and that she was going to prison for the rest of her life, according to testimony.

Lasley asked Bice about whether, when Patricia Wilkey finally broke down and abandoned her original story during the recorded interview, he believed that he was getting to the truth. Bice didn't offer any judgment on how truthful Patricia Wilkey was being, but said that he was trying to get the truth, according to testimony. Bice also testified that he had heard rumors of Skipper Wilkey's violence and had heard of psychotic episodes but had seen nothing personally.

The state rested its case when Bice was dismissed from the stand and Lasley called his first defense witness, former Rhea County Sheriff's deputy Bobby Combs, who worked at the department for more than 12 years.

Under Lasley's direct examination, Combs testified answering a domestic violence call at the Wilkey home where he interviewed Patricia Wilkey and took her to the sheriff's office to photograph bite marks he observed on her back.

"Mr. Wilkey was in his residence. We had talked to him through our radio because we knew that he had a scanner in the residence," Combs testified. Officers were told when they reached the scene that he was "going to shoot officers."

"We knew that he was in the residence by himself and we had taken Mrs. Wilkey to a safe haven," Combs testified. Wilkey was left inside alone to cool off, meanwhile.

Lasley asked about whether Combs had learned about Skipper Wilkey and whether he'd formed an opinion of him.

"Yes. When he was sober he was one way and when he was drinking he was another," Combs said.

"What was the other way?" Lasley asked.

"Aggressive," Combs said.

Another officer called to testify was former deputy and friend of Patricia Wilkey, Greg Roberson, whom the defendant called after the shooting but before she called 911.

Roberson, who retired from the department in 2017, testified that once he understood that Skipper Wilkey was dead, he told Patricia Wilkey to call 911. She did, but only after a second call from Roberson.

Roberson testified about the same incident in December 2015 that Combs described and also testified about encountering Skipper Wilkey at the local hospital where he was being kept in a examination room because he was having what was described in testimony as a "psychotic episode."

Roberson said Skipper Wilkey was "howling and screaming" at the hospital.

"Once he saw me the next few minutes was a torrent of verbal abuse," Roberson said.

Roberson said Skipper Wilkey "looked up at me and he said, 'I will get you. I will get you.'"

"Then he went back into delirium," Roberson testified.

Asked to characterize Skipper Wilkey, Roberson testified, "He had become a very dangerous and threatening, non-trusting individual."

Assistant District Attorney David Shinn, on cross examination, asked Combs if he'd responded to a call or heard of another incident since the ones they were involved with and he answered that they hadn't. Roberson didn't testify about any other incidents.

Brenda Cornett, a longtime friend and neighbor of the defendant, testified that Skipper Wilkey on several occasions came to her front door complaining about Patricia Wilkey's not opening her safe to give him her medication. On one occasion, Cornett testified that he arrived drunk and carrying two rifles and a pistol she said he always kept in his pocket after he'd had an accident in his truck nearby.

Patricia Wilkey's psychologist, Mark Ophenloch, testified that she had been diagnosed with major depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and most recently would say she has post-traumatic stress disorder. She'd been prescribed medications including Xanax and Ambien.

On cross examination by Shinn, Ophenloch testified that she'd never mentioned any abuse at the hands of her husband, including the reported bite to her back.

The last witness to testify Wednesday was Skipper Wilkey's former mother-in-law from a previous marriage before he and Patricia remarried.

Nancy Megaris testified that Skipper Wilkey had repeatedly threatened her and her husband's lives when their daughter was married to him.

Megaris said he always carried a weapon.

On cross examination by Shinn, she also said he'd never touched her or anyone else in the family.

The trial will resume Thursday morning with Lasley expected to call two or three witnesses.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.


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